I must go on boasting.1 Although there is nothing to be gained, I will go on to visions and revelations2 from the Lord.
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I know a man in Christ3 who fourteen years ago was caught up4 to the third heaven.5 Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know--God knows.6
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And I know that this man--whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows--
was caught up7 to paradise.8 He heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell.
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I will boast about a man like that, but I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses.9
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Even if I should choose to boast,10 I would not be a fool,11 because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say.
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To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations,12 there was given me a thorn in my flesh,13 a messenger of Satan,14 to torment me.
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Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.15
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But he said to me, "My grace16 is sufficient for you, for my power17 is made perfect in weakness.18"19 Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.
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That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight20 in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships,21 in persecutions,22 in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.23
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I have made a fool of myself,24 but you drove me to it. I ought to have been commended by you, for I am not in the least inferior to the "super-apostles,"25 even though I am nothing.26
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The things that mark an apostle--signs, wonders and miracles27--were done among you with great perseverance.
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How were you inferior to the other churches, except that I was never a burden to you?28 Forgive me this wrong!29
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Now I am ready to visit you for the third time,30 and I will not be a burden to you, because what I want is not your possessions but you. After all, children should not have to save up for their parents,31 but parents for their children.32
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So I will very gladly spend for you everything I have and expend myself as well.33 If I love you more,34 will you love me less?
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Be that as it may, I have not been a burden to you.35 Yet, crafty fellow that I am, I caught you by trickery!
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Did I exploit you through any of the men I sent you?
I urged36 Titus37 to go to you and I sent our brother38 with him. Titus did not exploit you, did he? Did we not act in the same spirit and follow the same course?
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Have you been thinking all along that we have been defending ourselves to you? We have been speaking in the sight of God39 as those in Christ; and everything we do, dear friends,40 is for your strengthening.41
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For I am afraid that when I come42 I may not find you as I want you to be, and you may not find me as you want me to be.43 I fear that there may be quarreling,44 jealousy, outbursts of anger, factions,45 slander,46 gossip,47 arrogance48 and disorder.49
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I am afraid that when I come again my God will humble me before you, and I will be grieved50 over many who have sinned earlier51 and have not repented of the impurity, sexual sin and debauchery52 in which they have indulged.
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